Lhasa luxury hotel opens for propaganda event

22nd August 2014

Intercontinental hotel collaborates with China and fails Tibetans

The luxury InterContinental Hotel in Lhasa is set to open for a trial run this weekend as part of the Chinese government’s celebration of "Beautiful home, Happy Lhasa", a programme of propaganda events coinciding with the Tibetan Buddhist Shoton festival. The hotel will open its doors for the first time to host a “trade fair” related to the “Happy Lhasa” campaign.

Intercontinental and Chinese Communist Party

During construction, the IHG hotel was visited by senior Chinese Communist Party official, Qizhala (a Chinese version of his ethnic Tibetan name, Choedak) (photos below). Qizhala is outspoken in his support of China’s repressive security in Tibet and participated in the “Stability Maintenance Response Simulation Drill” in Lhasa this March. He is also an avid proponent of the “Grid Management System” which uses Chinese party members in local neighbourhoods to monitor Tibetans for signs of opposition to China’s rule. Human Rights Watch has described the system in Tibet as “Orwellian” and aimed at “surveillance and control”.

Selling Tibetan culture

Although Lhasa’s local government is “celebrating” the Shoton festival, in reality religious freedom is under the strict control of the Communist Party in Tibet. In the past the Shoton festival would have drawn dancers from all over Tibet, but today only the Chinese state-approved Singing and Dancing Troupe are allowed to perform. Like other Tibetan gatherings, last year’s Shoton was subject to a huge military and security presence.

Intercontinental’s ignorance of Tibetan

While IHG enjoys close links with the Communist authorities in Lhasa, its attempt to demonstrate sensitivity to the Tibetan community in Tibet has backfired completely. Online publicity in the Tibetan language has been described by a Tibetan speaker as “the worst translation I’ve ever seen”. Within two paragraphs, the multinational company uses three different Tibetan spellings of its own name. The same text appears on the website in perfect Chinese. The multinational British hotels company which expects most of its employees in Lhasa not to be Tibetan will also be hosting a “celebration full of ethnic characteristics”. The hotel is expected to open to paying guests within the next two months. Please help us expose IHG's hypocrisy by emailing Intercontinental chief executive Richard Solomons.